TAMPA — Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid had four assists for the Pacific Division in a 5-2 victory against the Central Division in the first semifinal at the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena on Sunday.
All of McDavid's assists came in the second 10-minute period after Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne held him and the Pacific off the scoreboard in the first period. The Pacific was limited to four shots on goal in the first, but Rinne considered himself fortunate to get through the period unscathed with San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns hitting the post twice and McDavid having three high-quality scoring chances.
"Actually, we did a really good job in front of me," Rinne said. "I only had four saves. It is challenging, though. You have some of the best players in the world coming at you and usually it's an odd-man rush or a breakaway or things like that."
That was the case when McDavid blew past Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon on the right wing and raced in alone against Rinne and the Central leading 1-0 on MacKinnon's goal at 1:47. Rinne got a piece of McDavid's wrist shot with his catching glove, and the puck popped up in the air before bouncing off Rinne's right shoulder and somehow stayed out of the net with 1:04 left in the first period.
"He tried to put it over my glove and I got a piece of it and I felt that it was going to go around me, so I just kind of spun around and I was able to knock it down," Rinne said. "I think I was a little bit lucky. It felt good, though."
McDavid had another chance off a steal and a breakaway with 1:23 remaining in the first, but backhanded the puck wide. Then, McDavid stickhandled around Dallas Stars defenseman John Klinberg before Rinne made a right pad save with 48 seconds left in the period.
"I think everybody knows by now how good he is," Rinne said of McDavid. "He's unbelievable, fun to watch, and obviously for a goalie too it's a great challenge and fun to go against a guy like him. I was happy to get the better of him a couple times."
The Central wasn't as fortunate in the second period. The Pacific took a 2-1 lead with McDavid assisting on goals by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (4:13) and Vegas Golden Knights forward James Neal (6:57). After Predators defenseman P.K. Subban answered for the Central with a breakaway goal with 2:31 remaining to make it 2-2, Vancouver Canucks rookie forward Brock Boeser scored with 1:46 remaining to give the Pacific a 3-2 lead.
Burns (1:22 remaining) and Neal (42 seconds remaining) added empty-net goals for the Pacific, with McDavid assisting on each.